Roberto Kolter is a professor of Microbiology andMolecular Genetics at Harvard’s Medical School. Dr. Kolter’s research interests are broad, but he says his eclectic program boils down to an interest in the ecology and evolution of microbes, bacteria in particular, and on how these forces operate at the molecular level.
Although he’s worked in a number of different systems, lately Dr. Kolter is spending a lot of time with Bacillus subtilis, a modest little bacterium that doesn’t get the headlines of a wicked pathogen like Salmonella or a useful industrial workhorse like yeast. What it lacks in notoriety, B. subtilis makes up for in usefulness. According to Dr. Kolter, B. subtilis is an important source of industrial enzymes (as in laundry detergent) and, as a bacterial model, a prolific source of information on how some bacteria make spores and other diverse cell types. This ability to form different kinds of cells is intriguing to Dr. Kolter: B. subtilis cells can wear any of a number of different hats, depending on what is needed at any given moment. From spores to swimming cells to cells that wage chemical warfare on their neighbors, B. subtilis can do it all. Dr. Kolter and his colleagues are looking at the how and the why of this multiplicity.
In the interview, Dr. Merry Buckley talks with Dr. Kolter about what he finds interesting about B. subtilis, why we should start thinking about bacteria as multicellular organisms, and how he got involved in producing a book of poetry (poetry about microbes, that is).
Dr. Kolter also provided the photography for the book Germ Stories by Arthur Kornberg. To see a full description and pricing details, click the ASM estore and pick up your copy today.
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